DOUGLAS ALBERT MUNRO
Signalman First Class
United States Coast Guard



Born: 11 October 1919 Vancouver, British Columbia.
but accredited to Washington State.

Died: 27 September 1942 Guadalcanal

page updated 01 OCT 2000
links updated 04 SEP 2009
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On this Page:

   Acknowledgments
   The Citation
   Grave Site Dedication
   State of Washington Proclamation
   "I was there" by CDR Evans
   Letter from a Reader
   Medals of Honor
   The Munro Project
   Munro Exhibit & Photo Gallery
   Ships Named Munro
   Seattle CPOA "The Project"

 related web sites:
   Medal of Honor Society and Museum
   United States Military Medals
   USCG 378 High Endurance cutters


Honoring Our Heros

We in the Pacific Northwest are proud of the legacy our native sons and daughters have passed on to us.  The heroism and dedication of these citizens is often unsung.  The day-to-day efforts and sacrifices to make this country a better place for all are too numerous to count.  Indeed, many seem completely unnoticed by anyone, yet without them it is difficult to know what really would be.  The unrecognized heroes and heroines of this world who's deeds will never be noted in the annals of history are perhaps best represented by the ambassadors we choose to honor publicly.  This is our attempt to honor those deeds by one significant recognition.  Region Ten & Washington State Navy-Marine Corps MARS are proud to present this tribute to all heroes however great or seemingly small.


  The Medals

There are three distinct Medals of Honor; Navy, Army, and Air Force.

   The Navy medal was the first to be struck.  The original simple star shape (shown at top of page) was established in 1861; the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard still use it;



   a wreath version was designed in 1904 for the Army;



   an altered wreath version for the Air Force, was designed in 1963 and adopted in 1965.

For more history on the Medal of Honor, check out the Medal of Honor Society web site.



  Petty Officer Munro

is the only member of the United States Coast Guard
ever to receive the Medal of Honor.

Citation: "For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty as Petty Officer in Charge of a group of 24 Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a battalion of marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz Guadalcanal, on 27 September 1942. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered marines, Munro, under constant strafing by enemy machine-guns on the island, and at great risk of his life, daringly led 5 of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy's fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its 2 small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese. When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was instantly killed by enemy fire, but his crew, 2 of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished.
He gallantly gave his life for his country."

  Douglas Munro is buried
at Cle Elum, Washington.


A great deal of effort has been put forth by local veterans groups in that area to upgrade the grave site and maintain it as a place of honor. The project grew to rather large and costly proportions to include a lighted flag pole at the grave site and a Veterans' Memorial nearby. What follows is the culmination of these efforts, and probably the most fitting of all honors that could be rendered to Petty Officer Munro's memory.

For years the grave site of Douglas Munro had gone pretty much unattended. Apparently most of his relatives have left the area. From time to time current and former Coast Guard personnel, along with the local chapter of the Chief Petty Officers' Assoc. (CPOA) have stopped by to spruce things up. A long time friend of the family has done what he can to help out, but his advanced years made it increasingly difficult for him to continue.

RDCS Mark Brown took over the leadership of the Seattle CPOA chapter in 1998.  He made it a goal to obtain a flag pole for the grave site. Not a big problem in and of itself. The government has more than a few surplus poles. The next suggestion was to light the pole so there would be no worry about who would raise and lower the flag every day. That was a bit more challenging. There was no power near the grave site and contractors estimated a $16,000 price tag to get the power run some 1200 feet. Local veterans groups got on this. Somebody got the materials donated. Someone else talked a local contractor into digging the ditch to run the power lines.

All this was no easy feat. Much hard work went into it, but they succeeded; and the ideas didn't stop there. Some others decided a Veterans' Memorial near the grave site would be a fantastic idea. With regard to the granite stone required to be able to display some 300 names, well, as Patton said about his yacht, "If you have to ask, you can't afford one." These hardy Veterans' groups weren't forestalled by much. Word had it that as of this writing they were well on their way to the $30,000 goal they set for this project.

And now... the crowning moment:

  On September 27th, 1999

The 57th anniversary of his heroic deed, and his death, the State of Washington officially proclaimed the Douglas Munro grave site a Washington State Historical Monument.

MCPO-CG Vincent Patton (Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard is the single highest ranking enlisted person in the USCG and is assigned to the Commandant's office) was successful in having the grave-site designated as a Coast Guard Unit. It will have an OPFAC (Operational Facility number, every station, unit, cutter, etc. has one) assigned to it so there can be a budget to fund all future necessary maintenance and upkeep of the wall and grave site.


  U.S. ships named Munro


USCGC Munro, WHEC 724

378 Class, High Endurance Cutter
length 378' - beam 43'
Crew, 168 officers & Enlisted


The U.S. Coast Guard has honored the memory of Douglas Munro for many years with a cutter named after him. The USCGC Munro is a 378 foot high endurance cutter. The 378s are the largest ships (aside from two 399' icebreakers) in the Coast Guard.  

footnote:  All Coast Guard vessels over 65 foot designated length are called cutters. This is a carry-over from sailing days when a cutter was a class of war vessel that carried 8-12 cannon. They made up for their relatively light armor with sleekness and speed. Oft-times this was the greater advantage and cutters were frequently able to win out over much heavier armed ships of the line. These fast, sleek cutters were used for smuggling interdiction and were the first ships in military service in the United States (the US Navy was authorized by Congress 6 years after the Revenue Cutter Service which later was merged with the US Life Saving Service and the US Lighthouse Service to become the US Coast Guard)



USS Munro DE-422
Butler Class Destroyer Escort
length 306' - beam 36'
Crew, approx 400

Destroyer escorts (DE) were generally smaller and lighter than the destroyer (DD). They carried similar weaponry, but less of it. Note the single turret forward with one 5" gun. DDs usually had one to two main turrets up front and one turret aft. Each turret housed two 5" guns. The DE was well suited for convoy escort duty and to augment the duties of DDs in fleet ops with carrier and battleship battle groups. The advantages of a DE were less weight, smaller crew, and greater fuel efficiency. (Info relevant to W.W.II and pre-guided missile destroyers)

  Letter from a reader
Sir:


I was moved by your presentation on Douglas A. Munro, and would like to add a footnote that seems to have escaped notice by most. The US Coast Guard was not the first service to honor SM1C Munro by commissioning a ship in his honor. I was proud to serve aboard USS Douglas A. Munro (DE-422), from 1957 - 1960.

Destroyer-Escort Munro was a Butler Class DE launched in 1944 and saw action in W.W.II in the Pacific and Korea, and was engaged in August 1958 in escorting the Nationalist Chinese LST's into the beach at Quemoy and Matsu to rescue Taiwanese refugees from Communist shelling of the islands.  She was decommissioned in 1960 and stricken 10 years later, just as the Coast Guard was putting Cutter WHEC 724 into service.
V/R,
Gary P. Hanson former DK2, USNR


reprinted by permission

(NOTE: DK was the Disbursing Clerk rate, they handled the payroll, finance, allotments, travel pay, etc. They were assigned to Supply division, but worked in the ship's office with the YNs and PNs. This rate disappeared from the Navy sometime between 1960 and 1965}

Thank you Gary for alerting us to the existence of the USS Munro and for the great information you provided. -Editor


  "The Munro Project:

A Symbolic Call to Arms and A Posting of the Colors!"

"I am RDCS Mark W. Brown, the President of the Seattle Chapter of the CPOA.

"Our Chapter and the Douglas Munro VFW Post in Cle Elum are currently involved in coordinating a once in a lifetime ceremony, which will take place in the Cle Elum Cemetery in the state of Washington on Monday, September 27, 1999, at the SM1 Douglas Munro grave site. September 27th was the day he was killed in action. SM1 Munro is the only Congressional Medal of Honor (CMH) recipient buried in the Cle Elum Cemetery.

"The ceremony will consist of three distinct parts. The first part of the ceremony will be the dedication of the Veterans Memorial Wall. The wall is being funded by contributions from all over. It is made out of the absolute best granite. The wall will have names of over 300 vets from W.W.I, W.W.II, Korean War, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf. The wall will be situated within ten feet of SM1 Douglas H. Munro's grave site. The wall will have a special section on it, detailing the citation that was on his CMH. The wall will also have five 20" plates engraved with the seal for each of the five armed forces. On top of the wall and over looking the grave site will be perched a very large bronze eagle with its wings outstretched. The price tag on this wall is $30,000.

"The second part of the ceremony will be the dedication of the new flag pole. Taps will be played by the same man who played taps on the day that SM1 Munro was buried in the Cle Elum cemetery after he was brought back to the states from Guadalcanal.

"The final portion of the ceremony will be the announcement, by the Governor or his representative, that Douglas Munro's grave-site is now listed as a Washington State Historical Site.

"Of recent development, that you can share, is that MCPO-CG Patton was successful in having the grave-site designated as a Coast Guard Unit and will have an OPFAC assigned to it so we can receive a budget to fund all future necessary maintenance and upkeep of the wall and grave site.

"Presently we need significant contributions to pay for the memorial wall. If you decide to send a contribution to help with this project, please send it to:

Seattle Chapter of the CPOA
P.O. Box 84726
Seattle, WA 98134


"Make your check or money order out to: The Seattle Chapter of the CPOA Please note on the check that it is for "THE MUNRO PROJECT."

(ED Note: The above is a quoted document released earlier, in 1999. Some aspects of it have expired, as opposed to the future-tense wording. Prior to sending any contributions it is strongly advised you contact the Seattle CPOA to determine if such contributions are still being solicited.)

  The Munro Project Continues

The "Munro project" isn't just for Washington State, nor is it even a single project.  On September 27th, 2000, the 58th anniversary of SM1 Munro's heroic deed and death, the US Coast Guard training center at Cape May, NJ held the ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication of the Munro exhibit hall.  Learn more at the Official USCoast Guard biography page of Douglas Munro.


  ...Commander Ray Evans,

"One who was there"

During the Cle Elum grave site ceremony last September, I had the privilege of meeting CDR Ray Evans, USCG Ret. who served with distinction as SM1 Douglas Munro's crew member (also a Signalman at the time) aboard the Higgins Boat at Guadalcanal in World War II. The below story is a factual written account of CDR Evans' personal recollection of his shipmate and close friend. The story was originally entitled, "The Gold Dust Twins" when it was written by CDR Evans some years ago after receiving a number of requests for interviews and inquiries about his eyewitness account of the event surrounding Munro's heroic action, and his untimely death.

This is a story that you need to read in a nice quiet place, without interruption.  As you finish reading this story, you may come away with the same opinion I have. CDR Evans in my mind is often forgotten as 'the other Coast Guard hero' who played a significant role in saving the Marines during that tragic yet unforgettable day on September 27, 1942. CDR Evans was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic efforts during this event. In Munro's citation, a portion reads, "When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was instantly killed by enemy fire, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach." Then Signalman Third Class Ray Evans was one of the mentioned crew members in that passage who carried forth the phrase "Devotion to Duty," in keeping with the highest tradition of our proud service.

CDR Evans retired from the USCG on Aug 1, 1962 and presently resides in Washington state.

Enjoy.

MCPOCG Vince Patton


And now, the Rest of the Story...

Commander Raymond Evans, USCG (Ret.) remembers Douglas Munro and the action at Guadalcanal that earned Munro the Medal of Honor, the only such award earned by someone in the Coast Guard.

BACKGROUND HISTORY

Douglas Albert Munro -- Cle Elum, Washington

Raymond Joseph Evans, Jr. -- Seattle, Washington


On 17 September, 1939 these two young men walked into the U.S. Coast Guard Recruiting Station in the Federal Building, Seattle and enlisted as Apprentice Seamen. Doug Munro came from the small mountain town of Cle Elum where his father was manager of the Milwaukee Railroad Electric Substation. Ray came from Seattle. His father was a long time Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company employee in the Long Lines Division and had, back in 1925, been in charge of the telephone office in Cle Elum.

Since there was no training station in the Coast Guard in 1939, Ray was put in charge of a group of about 12 enlistees, including Munro, and placed on a bus to the Coast Guard Air Station at Port Angeles. Arriving there as raw boots they were put to mowing lawns, cleaning up, and servicing aircraft.

Seven days into this routine an announcement was made asking for volunteers to fill seven vacancies aboard USCGC Spencer then in route on permanent change of station orders from Valdez, Alaska to Staten Island CG Base, New York. The Spencer was just three years old and a smart ship. Doug and Ray volunteered and served aboard Spencer until early 1941 earning the Signalman 3rd Class rating during this time.


WAR HISTORY

The Coast Guard in 1941 was ordered to man three attack transports: the Hunter Liggett, American Legion, and Joseph T. Dickman which had been U.S. Army Transports. The word came out that signalmen were needed on the Hunter Liggett and Doug and I (Ray Evans) after many days of pleading convinced CDR Harold S. Berdine, the Executive Officer, USCGC Spencer to let us go. On arrival aboard Liggett at the Brooklyn Army Base we found we were actually attached to the staff of Commander Transport Division 7, Commodore G. B. Ashe. The officers of the staff were Navy except for CDR Dwight Dexter, Personnel Officer who was Coast Guard. The Navy apparently felt that the Coast Guard did not have officers trained in handling vessels in convoy or in multiple ship groups so the Division Commander was Navy. All other personnel on the vessels, both officers and men, were Coast Guard.

When I learned that CDR Dexter had received orders to command the Naval Operating Base on Guadalcanal I volunteered for duty building and manning a beach signal station and landed on the island on 7 August, 1942 with the Marine invasion force. Landing was relatively unopposed as the Japanese forces drew back into the hills behind what became known as Henderson Field, and let the landing occur with little interference until later when the fighting became fierce.

Munro, on the other hand, made the landing on Tulagi Island, 20 miles across the channel from Guadalcanal, which was a very bloody action wiping out 80% of the Marine first wave, and taking several days of fierce fighting before the island could be declared secured. When that action was completed in about two weeks he was transferred back to Guadalcanal and the two 'Gold Dust Twins,' as they became known on the Spencer, were reunited.

During mid-September the Marines had been ineffectively trying to drive west across the Matinikau River but with little or no success. As I understand it now they had directed a force across the river high up on the mountains and on 23 September launched an attack by water to land at Point Cruz, charge inland and link up with the land force and encircle the Japanese. Our part in this came when CDR Dexter called Munro and I to him and directed us to take charge of a number of LCVP and LCT vessels to transport a battalion of Marines from the Base at Lunga Point to Point Cruz and land them in a small cove on the eastern side of the Point.

The boats loaded, Munro and Evans were in separate LCVP's, each with an air cooled Lewis, .30 caliber machine gun and ammunition. The flotilla proceeded to a point about 1 mile offshore of Point Cruz and rendezvoused with the destroyer USS Ballard, which laid down a covering barrage and then gave us the go ahead to land. The landing was marred by shallow water preventing the landing from occurring where planned. The Battalion Major was informed that as soon as they landed he should direct his troops to the left to compensate for the landing site but as it turned out he was killed instantly by a Japanese mortar round and did not so direct his troops. They charged through the narrow fringe of trees and jungle at the beach and emerged into a field rising steeply up to a ridge. They started up only to find Japanese in single man pits with camouflaged lids behind them. They had charged right up the hill past these defensive positions and were then placed under a murderous field of fire and were forced into fighting their way back to the beach losing about twenty five casualties in the process.

Meanwhile the Battalion Major had requested that when the boats returned to base, one LCVP remained offshore for a short time to receive immediate wounded. I volunteered to do this while Munro led the other boats back to base. The Coxswain, whom I believe was named Roberts, from Portland, Oregon and I lay-to off the beach waiting. Due to our inexperience we did not anticipate fire from the beach and allowed our boat to lay too close in. A sudden burst from a Japanese machine gun hit the Coxswain and I slammed the combined shift and throttle lever into full ahead and raced the four miles back to the Lunga Point Base. Roberts was placed on an airevac plane to Espiritu Santos, New Hebrides but I understand he died while in route.

I should add that the Japanese gunner had punctured all three hydraulic control lines on the LCVP so that arriving at the Base at full throttle, probably about 20 mph, I could not get the engine out of gear and ran full throttle up on the gently sloping sand beach. Scratch one LCVP.

As soon as I arrived back at the Base, Munro and I were told that the Marines were in trouble and had to be evacuated from the same beach we had landed them on. So with approximately the same LCVP's and three or four LCT's we headed back to get them off. On arrival Munro and I elected to stay in an empty LCVP with our two Lewis machine guns and furnish some sort of covering fire for the Marines on the beach as they boarded. As the LCVP we were in would be filled we transferred to a waiting empty boat, until at last, all the Marines had been loaded, including about twenty five walking wounded, and the last boat, an LCT and our LCVP turned and headed to sea. As we passed the end of the point we saw another LCT loaded with Marines stranded on the beach and unable to back off. Munro directed the LCT with us to go in, pass a tow line and get them off, which it did. During this procedure, which took about twenty minutes, there was no gunfire from the Japanese on the beach nor did we see any movement on the beach. When both LCT's were headed out to sea we fell in after them and were at full power when I saw a line of water spouts coming across the water from where the LCT had been grounded and realized it was machine gun fire. I don't think Munro saw the line of bullets since he was facing forward and did not at first react to my yelling over the engine noise. When he did he turned far enough to receive a round through the neck at the base of the skull. He was dead on arrival back at the Naval Operating Base.

Admiral William F. Halsey, USN, on recommendation I'm sure from CDR Dexter, now RADM Dexter (Ret.), recommended Douglas Munro for the Medal of Honor, the only such medal awarded to a Coastguardsman to this day. It was subsequently delivered to his mother, Edith Munro, in an appropriate ceremony at which I was not present being still in the South Pacific. Edith Munro afterward joined the SPARs as a reserve officer and served as such until the war's end. Both she and Doug's father are now deceased.

ADM Halsey promoted me to Chief Signalman on his flagship in Noumea, New Caledonia after I was relieved at Guadalcanal. I subsequently served as Signalman aboard the President Polk making a supply run to Guadalcanal but the malaria I had been plagued with returned and I was transferred back to San Francisco on the Polk, a civilian transport under government contract. Shortly after returning from leave with my bride, Dorothy, I was awarded the Navy Cross in ceremonies at the Coast Guard Training Station, Alameda, California. . . .

Doug was a vital, outgoing young man who liked everybody he met with few exceptions. He was fun to be around and we had some great liberty times together. He was a hard worker and we studied together to become proficient as Coast Guard signalmen. We didn't want the Navy battleship signalmen to think we couldn't compete because we could, and did, all through the war. . . [Douglas Munro's Medal of Honor] was deserved and no one was more pleased than I to have a high endurance cutter, USCGC Munro, named after him. I hope there is always a 'Munro' in the Coast Guard fleet.

Commander Ray Evans, USCG (Ret.)

Furnished by:

MCPOCG Vincent W. Patton, III (now retired)
The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard
2100 Second St. SW, Room 2216
Washington, DC 20593-0101
PHNR: (202) 267-2397
FAX: (202) 267-4487
Web site: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/mcpocg

Reprinted from Mar 2000 e-mail article

 Our thanks to the following sources:
   MCPOCG Vincent W. Patton, III USCG
   YNCS Rich Zidel, USCG, from his article in the Coast Guard District 13 All Hands Newsletter
   Congressional Medal of Honor Society web page
   LCDR Philip A. Nowak, USCGR, USCG Integrated Support Command Seattle
   US Navy Historical archives for the Butler Class DE photo.
   SK2 Gary Hanson, USNR (ret)



 related web sites:
   Medal of Honor Society
   Medal of Honor Museum
   United States Military Medals
   USCG 378 High Endurance cutters


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